On Friday and Saturday, the 7th St. Theatre is showing a film you must see.
Truly, whether or not you’ve seen “Alien” before does not matter. It’s the chance to see one of the greatest horror (and sci-fi) movies of all time on a big screen and start your Halloween weekend off in the best possible way.
After his mostly unsuccessful work on a sci-fi comedy film “Dark Star,” writer Dan O’Bannon set out to write a story about a terrifying sci-fi monster instead, originally titled “Starbeast.” Produced as a result of 20th Century Fox wanting to deliver another sci-fi film soon after Star Wars, O’Bannon’s script of “Alien” was the only one they had on their desks at the time, and was originally planned to be a Roger Corman-esque B-grade horror movie.
However, the culmination of his work with then-burgeoning director Ridley Scott and creature design by the late artist H.R. Giger would spawn one of the most prolific sci-fi film franchises of all time — behind only “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.” As with most great films and great works of art, the essential creators of the film were all influenced by works that came before.
“I didn’t steal Alien from anybody. I stole it from everybody!” according to O’Bannon, who drew influence for his idea for the script from “Forbidden Planet” and a “The Thing from Another World,” as well as many others.
Director Ridley Scott envisioned it as “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” in space, with an aesthetic and style influenced by “2001: A Space Odyssey” and, of course, “Star Wars.” Scott went on to storyboard the film for more than three weeks, and upon seeing that he had a vision for the way the film would be shot, the production budget ballooned from $4.2 million to $8.4 million, with the intention to make an A-grade horror film. He succeeded exceptionally.
Although almost 40 years old, the film holds up to this day, with the narrow, lived-in hallways of the space freighter Nostromo still just as claustrophobic, and the Alien creature itself still the image of a walking nightmare factory. Upon showing Giger’s artwork to Ridley Scott, he and Dan O’Bannon were in agreement that Giger’s horrific designs and artwork inside his book, Necronomicon, had captured the design they wanted for the monster. If you want to see the original work of Giger’s that inspired the Alien creature, look up “Necronom IV” in Google.
The “Alien” monster is the true star of the film, even with the movie having a superb cast in Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton and Tom Skerritt. Shot in a way that would make Hitchcock proud, the creature is always mired in shadow or with its organic, sinewy being blended in with the ship’s haunting construction. The quick peeks of the monster throughout are only enough to see its most frightening features — from its sleek and spider-like limbs dangling from above, or its fangs glistening in slime to reveal a second set behind them.
Like the embryo, a “facehugger” gestates into its victim, the burst of success “Alien” had once it hit theaters spawned three sequels from 20th Century Fox, and the sequel that came in 1986 — “Aliens” — is among the plethora of oh-so-awesome movies that the 1980s gave us.
Audiences were terrified of the film.
According to film editor Terry Rawlings, people screamed and ran out of the theater. Ushers fainted. People got sick, or went to the back of the theater just to be as far away from the screen as possible – but they couldn’t keep their eyes off the screen. If 1977 was the year that sci-fi enamored us with adventure and spectacle with “Star Wars,” 1979 was the year it terrified us with “Alien”.
In a culture that seems to be developing a heavier interest in nostalgia, possibly as a result in a day and age where the past looks just a tad brighter than the future, to see “Alien” this weekend would allow you to delve into a realm of horror from a better age of movies.
For $5 a ticket, the 7th Street is offering a chance to experience a nostalgic terror that is truly special — to let this incredible cinematic monster make a crawling return from a lost part of our imaginations, where it has always been waiting to remind us of its unthinkable horror.
Showings are at 7:30 pm Friday and Saturday at Hoquiam’s 7th St. Theatre.